MALDEF Stands Firmly Against Congressional Efforts to Roll Back Key Protections from the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Today, select members of the House and Senate will meet to finalize the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) spending bill. Among the provisions at issue is a ban on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) bringing lawsuits to combat language-based national origin discrimination in the workplace.

The Senate has passed a version of the spending bill that includes this ban, while the House rejected a similar measure this summer. Negotiations are currently underway to hammer out the differences between the two bills. Last week, however, 36 Democrats joined 182 Republicans in the House in a non-binding vote supporting the inclusion of the ban in the final bill.

English-only policies that are enacted for discriminatory reasons are a major source of employment discrimination against Latino workers. Discriminatory employers often use language as a proxy for national origin discrimination against Latinos and other language minorities. (Employers may, however, properly enact English-only policies when justified by “business necessity,” including supervisors’ need to communicate effectively with all employees.)

“In clear and unequivocal terms, language discrimination is wrong. House and Senate conferees must not accept or offer barriers to equality in the workplace.” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF’s President and General Counsel. “If Congress approves this provision, it would effectively roll back the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We are strongly opposed to this policy.”

“Congress must not forsake our national commitment to equal employment opportunity,” stated Peter Zamora, Washington, D.C. Regional Counsel. “Prohibiting the EEOC from combating national origin discrimination would effectively return our nation to the pre- Civil Rights era, when employers were free to discriminate without regard for federal civil rights enforcement. It is outrageous that Congress would even contemplate such a reversal. ”

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org

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